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June 26, 2021, 2:20 p.m. EDT

How to treat ‘election deniers’ and ‘Big Lie’ adherents is an ongoing challenge for mainstream news organizations

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Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Matt Negrin’s campaign to ban “election deniers” from television news failed to achieve his original goal, which was to prevent a significant number of Americans from believing the lie that Donald Trump didn’t lose the presidential election to Joe Biden.

Instead, it has provoked a persistent debate over the role of political journalists, along with illustrating how television news and the politicians who depend upon its cameras have changed.

Negrin, a former journalist and now producer at Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” wrote a December column for the Washington Post saying that TV journalists who invite Republicans on the air should begin by asking if they believed Biden won the election. If they don’t say yes, the interview should end.

He’s aggressively continued the effort on his personal Twitter account, saying mainstream news programs that book officeholders who voted against accepting election results are helping to spread misinformation.

The latest: Rudy Giuliani’s law license suspended by New York appeals court

Key Words (March 2021): Trump defender Sidney Powell justifies her election-theft claims by conceding ‘reasonable people’ don’t believe them

Many in the news business believe that stance goes too far, that a journalist’s role is to question ideas and point out inaccuracies or outright fictions, not to pretend they don’t exist. Two Sunday morning hosts, Jake Tapper and Chris Wallace, recently revealed themselves as polar opposites on the point.

While it’s not a formal policy, Tapper said he hasn’t booked election deniers on CNN’s “State of the Union” and on his weekday show, “The Lead.”

“It’s a discussion I think everyone in the news media should be having,” Tapper told Politico. “Should those who shared the election lie that incited the deadly attack on the Capitol and that continues to erode confidence in our democracy be invited onto our airwaves to continue to spread the Big Lie? Can our viewers count on these politicians to tell the truth about other topics?”

See: ‘Big Lie’ allegiance dividing Republicans into Trump loyalists and a Cheney-Romney-Kinzinger wing

Wallace, who hosts “Fox News Sunday,” has said he’s willing to talk to all sides and has no rules about the order of questions. “I don’t think moral posturing goes well with newsgathering,” Wallace said in a statement last month.

When Florida Sen. Rick Scott appeared on his show Feb. 28, Wallace asked whether Biden won the election “fair and square.” Absolutely, Scott replied.

The Margin (July 2020): The ‘best’ Trump interview yet? Fox News host Chris Wallace cheered — and also blasted — for his grilling of the president

Led by Trump, suspicion about the 2020 results has remained, despite elections officials calling it secure and the dismissal of court challenges. A Quinnipiac University poll taken six months after the election found 29% of Americans and 66% of Republicans surveyed said Biden was not legitimately elected.

Confronting deniers is not a subject many in the business are eager to address publicly. No one on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” ABC’s “This Week” or CBS’s “Face the Nation,” for example, would speak to the Associated Press about it.

What would Tim Russert do? The former “Meet the Press” host was the acknowledged king of Sunday morning political talk shows before his death in 2008, and his former producer said Russert believed in exposing ideas that many found repugnant. Russert memorably interviewed former KKK leader David Duke in 1991.

But Betsy Fischer Martin, executive producer of “Meet the Press” from 2002 to 2013, wonders how many such opportunities exist now. In today’s climate, many politicians prefer friendly TV venues, with conservatives’ preference for Fox News appearances particularly pronounced.

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